There is growing concern over the connection of gum disease and heart disease. Unfortunately, most people think teeth have no connection to the rest of the body. There are many connections, including the fact that every tooth and its supporting structures contain arteries that travel to the heart. It’s very important to keep the tissues surrounding your teeth healthy. Studies have confirmed gum disease has a connection with increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disorder
- Problem pregnancies
HOW GUM DISEASE LINKS TO HEART DISEASE
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, different views or theories exist to explain the connection between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease.
With bleeding gums, the bacteria in gum infection can travel to the body through the bloodstream. The same bacteria found in gum disease, is also found in hardened arteries. As oral bacteria from bleeding gums enter the blood stream, they attach to fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels and cause clot formation.
The blood clots obstruct normal blood flow, which of course minimizes the amount of nutrients and oxygen reaching the heart for normal function. Heart attack is the result if the heart cannot function properly.
Another view explains that inflammation caused by gum disease may increase plaque build up in arteries, causing or contributing to swelling of the arteries.
CAUSE OF GUM DISEASE
The most common cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene and not visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and check up. Other causes include:
- Tobacco products for smoking or chewing.
- Drinking excessive alcohol dries the tissues of the mouth making the oral environment more susceptible to infection.
- Recreational drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine can destroy the surrounding structures and the teeth.
- Diabetes makes it hard to control infections. Gum disease is considered one of the complications of diabetes, especially in poorly controlled type 2 diabetic patients.
- Mouth breathing dries the tissues and can lead to dry mouth and gum disease.
- Poor nutrition that is low in healthy nutrients can compromise the body’s immune system, which makes it harder to fight infection.
- Genetics can play a part in the cause of gum disease in approximately 30 percent of the population. However, early preventive measures can counteract predisposed gene factors.
- Puberty, pregnancy and menopause are stages that strongly affect women’s hormones. During these periods the gum tissue has been shown in studies to also be affected, if proper daily care and a healthy diet is not addressed but rather neglected.
- Stress has been shown to be linked to many health problems. You may be surprised that stress can also exacerbate or even contribute to gum disease. Your immune system is affected during times of stress, which makes it more difficult to fight infection and therefore, gum disease.
- Medications including some antidepressants, contraceptives and heart medicines can affect the health of your gums. Most cause dry mouth, which contributes to gum disease.
- Clenching and grinding can contribute to destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth, such bone and gums. This happens with the excessive force that is applied during clenching and grinding. It’s been reported the force applied during clenching and grinding can be as high as 800 pounds!
Proper Oral Hygiene Makes a Big Difference
At the beginning stages of gum disease, brushing your teeth and flossing them, can totally reverse gum disease. As it advances and your bone and teeth become loose, it is more difficult to reverse the disease.
Signs of Gum Disease
According to the American Dental Association, gum disease (periodontal disease) afflicts more than 70 million of the American population. It’s known as the silent disease, because you may have no pain or other major symptoms. However, bad breath, some bleeding when brushing or flossing may be some of the signs to look out for, including:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing or flossing
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
Aging and Gum Disease Studies have shown that older people have the highest rates of gum disease. That being said, you don’t have to be part of that statistic. Maintaining good oral health is not difficult but does take discipline. Elderly also have a higher risk of heart disease.
Gum disease and tooth loss is not a natural part of aging. Good oral hygiene and regular professional care can prevent tooth loss at any age. Poor oral health in the elderly can cause a domino affect. Loss of teeth can lead to dentures and a change in appearance and ability to chew food.
Tips on Preventing Gum Disease
Gum disease has several stages:
- The first stage is known as gingivitis. During this initial phase, the gums may become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Pain is usually not present. Gingivitis is easy to treat, and with proper home oral care and professional cleaning, it can be reversed.
- Periodontitis is the next stage, if gingivitis has not been treated. As bacteria grow and spread, they form complicated colonies that are difficult to eradicate. The bacteria produce toxins that eventually lead to chronic inflammation and destruction of bone and gum tissue. If this step is not treated, it can become more advanced and aggressive and of course, may even affect your heart.
- Aggressive periodontitis can occur rapidly and cause bone destruction and loss of gum tissue attachment to the teeth.
The best way to prevent the first stage and therefore, advancement to the other stages, is the following:
- 1. Practice good home oral hygiene. Make sure to floss daily. You’ve probably heard this before, but it cannot be said enough. Just brushing your teeth and not flossing is similar to washing the front of your body and not the back. Bacteria accumulate in between the teeth and the only way to clean this area is with flossing. One good tip is to keep your floss in your shower and use it then. It’s also very important to floss properly. Be gentle and make sure to wrap the floss around each tooth and gently take it under your gums. This takes practice. Make sure to get instructions from your dental professional, if you are not sure how to use floss.
- 2. See your dentist regularly.
- 3. Stop bad habits like tobacco products.
- 4. Eat healthy snacks and nutritious meals. Sugar and simple carbohydrates are your teeth’s enemy and what bacteria use to produce acid to destroy teeth and gum tissue. An apple a day does keep your doctor and dentist away. Eat healthy snacks instead of feeding bacteria.